WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, targeting a potential Republican rival in 2008, dubbed plans for a short-term U.S. troop increase in Iraq "the McCain doctrine," in an interview aired on Sunday.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, considered likely to be a Republican candidate for president, has been "the most prominent spokesperson for this for some time," Edwards said in an early salvo of the 2008 campaign.
Edwards, a former senator who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004, made his remarks in an interview on the ABC News program "This Week."
"I actually, myself, believe that this idea of surging troops, escalating the war -- what Senator McCain has been talking about -- what I would call now the McCain doctrine ... (is) dead wrong," said Edwards.
The former senator from North Carolina launched his run for the White House on Thursday with a call to withdraw 40,000 to 50,000 troops from Iraq, about one-third of the current force, to spur Iraqis to quell their own mounting communal violence.
Edwards is the third candidate to jump formally into a Democratic race in which he may have to compete for funds and support with leading prospective contenders, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.
McCain, a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in public opinion polls, long has urged sending more U.S. troops to or else face "sooner or later, our defeat in Iraq."
Such an increase should not be characterized as "short-term," he said in a December 6 statement marking the release of the final report by the Iraqi Study Group, a bipartisan panel that recommended changes in U.S. strategy in and around Iraq.
"Our troops should be sent to Baghdad -- or anywhere else in Iraq -- in order to complete a defined mission, not to serve until some predetermined date passes," McCain said at the time.
A McCain spokeswoman did not return a call seeking comment on Edwards' remarks.
President George W. Bush is expected to announce a strategy shift in Iraq in a matter of days, possibly including an increase of 15,000 to 30,000 combat troops, chiefly to try to end sectarian fighting and stop death squads in Baghdad.
Another Democrat seeking his party's presidential nomination, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, said a surge of U.S. troops would "make a big mistake even bigger."
"I believe that the generals are right. We've got to put responsibility where it belongs, in the Iraqis," he added in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."